(TRENTON) – Assembly-approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary S. Schaer, Mila Jasey, Gordon Johnson, Andrew Zwicker, Thomas Giblin and Joann Downey to create a commission comprised of higher education and business professionals to study and strategize on best ways to foster innovation, job growth and economic development in the state was advanced Monday by a Senate panel.
The bill (A-1668) would establish the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education and Business Partnerships in the Department of State. The commission would be comprised of: the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development, the Secretary of Higher Education, the Chief Executive Officer of the Economic Development Authority, 12 members appointed by the Governor, and four members of the public appointed by the leaders of the Senate and General Assembly.
“If we want to be competitive, we must invest in the economic future of our state,” said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This commission would bring together experts in critical industries like health care and biotechnology and pair them with higher education professionals to collaborate on varied and concrete courses of action to stimulate our economy and generate a robust workforce.”
“This commission brings together individuals with great influence on our state,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “We should take advantage of the knowledge and expertise of these professionals, and find the best ways to utilize our institutions of higher education and industries to help grow our economy and foster the type of innovation that will give us an edge over the competition “
“The commitment to our college graduates cannot end on graduation day,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “We lose many of our graduates to other states. We cannot afford the brain drain. The partnerships created through this commission can help nurture new ideas that will create jobs in highly competitive fields that our best and brightest can take advantage of right here at home.”
“Our institutions of higher education, our businesses and our industries have a stake in the growth and prosperity of our state,” said Zwicker (D-Somerset/Mercer/Middlesex/Hunterdon). “The brainpower is there. Let’s tap into that wealth of knowledge and build a culture of innovation that will make not just our economy, but our higher education institutions and our industries stronger.”
“The state benefits when institutions of higher education in the state and the business community thrive,” said Giblin (D-Essex/Passaic). “By fostering collaboration between these two important entities, we can nourish the type of creative thinking that will make our state stronger.”
“There is strength in numbers,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “Rather than work in isolation, this collaboration will allow us to be more effective in our shared goal of producing the type of workforce in New Jersey that will help propel our industries and our economy forward.”
The 12 members appointed by the Governor would include: the president of a public research university, a representative of a public college or university located in the state and a representative of an independent college or university located in the state that are actively engaged in business partnerships, a representative of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, a representative of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, a representative of the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey, a representative of the New Jersey Technology Council, a representative of BioNJ, a representative of the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey, a representative of the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities, a representative of the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, and a representative of the New Jersey Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. The four members of the public must have backgrounds in higher education, public-private partnerships, private sector innovation, or a combination of those experiences. The Senate President, Assembly Speaker, Minority Leader of the Senate, and the Minority Leader of the General Assembly would each appoint one of these members. Under the bill, the commission will focus on higher education and business partnerships.
The commission would:
- Explore how to best foster innovation in the State through public-private partnerships in higher education;
- Stimulate academic-industrial collaboration through such mechanisms as business incubation facilities and clinical research and clinical trials;
- Identify and support research opportunities at New Jersey academic institutions and other institutions that can advance economic development and employment;
- Facilitate collaborations between businesses and institutions of higher education, with a greater emphasis on research and development in the pharmaceutical, biosciences, biotechnology, information technology, and telecommunications industries;
- Identify and support opportunities for partnerships between institutions of higher education and pharmaceutical, biosciences, and biotechnology companies that can accelerate the commercialization of new therapies, drugs, and technologies;
- Identify strategies to significantly increase the number of clinical trials conducted by public and independent institutions of higher education in the State;
- Identify the workforce and economic development needs of the State and strategies for meeting those needs; and
- Study the current roles of the four-year public and independent institutions of higher education, the county colleges, and the county vocational school districts in meeting and advancing the workforce and economic development needs of the State, and make recommendations on improving the role of each of these sectors in advancing these needs.
The bill would also direct the executive director of the commission to serve as the Higher Education-Business Partnership Ombudsman. A business that seeks to form a partnership with an institution of higher education may collaborate and work with the ombudsman in the establishment of that partnership. The ombudsman would:
- Assist business and industry in making the appropriate contacts at the institutions of higher education that may be necessary to foster a partnership;
- Make available to business and industry information on research efforts, either planned or in progress, at institutions of higher education that may be applicable to the work of that business or industry and may foster its interest in establishing a collaboration or partnership with the institution;
- Collaborate with institutions of higher education in the establishment of strategies that an institution might implement to inform business and industry of the expertise and achievements of the institution’s faculty and research staff applicable to the business or industry’s area of interest;
- Conduct annual outreach efforts to pharmaceutical companies to assess the interest of those companies in establishing clinical trials at institutions of higher education in the State;
- Determine the specific reasons for any lack of interest in conducting clinical trials at institutions of higher education and then work with the institutions to implement actions that address the concerns and issues raised; and
- Annually assess the success of institutions of higher education in meeting the research and development needs of business and industry.
The bill was approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. It was approved 68-4-7 by the General Assembly on June 27.